After opening the 2A tournament with a resounding win over No. 16 Port Angeles, the top-seeded Tumwater Thunderbirds left little doubt in another big win over No. 8 Clarkston on Saturday.
The going only gets tougher this weekend, when the T-Birds host the No. 4 North Kitsap Vikings in a state semifinal at Tumwater District Stadium on Saturday at 5 p.m.
The Vikings got here by topping No. 13 Ephrata before defeating No. 5 Lynden in overtime last week, the team that topped them in the last two state tournaments, including last year’s state championship game.
While the T-Birds did hand the Vikings their only loss of the season in a 34-14 win back on Sep. 8 in Poulsbo, Tumwater coach William Garrow knows that it will be anything but easy the second time around.
“We have a ton of respect for their program,” Garrow said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, there’s no question about it. They are very good.”
In the September matchup, Ethan Kastner had one of his best games of the season for the T-Birds. The senior quarterback only threw the ball 10 times, but he completed all 10 passes and posted 146 passing yards and four touchdowns.
While Tumwater had success through the air, Garrow said that wasn’t a focus going into the game, and it won’t be this weekend either.
“We try to make sure that we’re adhering to that 70-30 run-pass ratio,” Garrow said. “It just so happened that in that last game, Ethan did a really nice job on those 30 percent of plays connecting with receivers, making the right reads and making good throws.”
Like usual, the Thunderbirds will rely on a scheme that has allowed different players to have big games over the course of the season.
“We’re a system based offense,” Garrow said. “Running the Wing-T is about looking at the way the defense is trying to defend you and trying to use your answers to that … It’s always about trying to execute and do what we do.”
Leading the North Kitsap offense is Cole Edwards, who earned first-team all-league honors throwing for over 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns.
One of his most dynamic playmakers, 2A Olympic League MVP Logan Sloman, will also be on the field this weekend after leaving the Week 2 matchup early with an injury.
Sloman has been a major factor in the Vikings’ offense this season, as he tallied more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 15 touchdowns. His return gives North Kitsap a boost that they lacked in the first meeting.
“Having not been able to see him live for much at all in that game, it’s an unknown factor,” Garrow said. “He’s a dynamic playmaker … he’s a really talented kid. They find different ways to get him the ball. He’s just a really good athlete.”
Garrow noted that to duplicate the kind of success they had in Week 2, they’ll need to limit explosive plays, both in and out of structure.
“They have a couple of guys who can break a game open,” Garrow said. “They catch a ball on a slant, and they can take it 80 yards. We really want to limit explosive plays and make them earn it the entire way down the field.”
While slowing down an offense that has averaged 40 points per game this season is the main priority, Garrow also said that he is hopeful the defense could seize momentum with a couple of takeaways, similar to how they did against Clarkston last Saturday.
The winner of the semifinal this weekend will advance to the state championship game, which is set for next Saturday, Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. at Husky Stadium in Seattle. They’ll match up with the winner of the other semifinal, which pits No. 2 Anacortes against No. 3 Enumclaw.